March 6, 2010
Common Council considers adult business moratorium
Confusion surrounding the legality of Tikki’s Adult Boutique’s new downtown location has led the city Common Council to consider putting a moratorium on adult entertainment businesses while looking to revise city codes on the issue.
Alderman Tom Michales (R-8th Ward) began a discussion during the council’s meeting Tuesday night about revising the section of the city code regulating where adult businesses can operate.
City Attorney Ron Walsh told the Common Council that he will prepare a resolution to put a moratorium on adult businesses, to be considered at the council’s meeting March 16. A moratorium would prevent adult businesses from opening while city officials revise the code.
Michales said Friday that he is concerned about promoting the downtown area as a place that sells adult products.
“I don’t know whether we grandfather these (businesses) already there or we look at having them move in five to 10 years,” Michales said.
He said he wants the law to be clear, rather than open to interpretation. Michales said he would also like to see the Cortland Downtown Partnership give the council input on what types of businesses it wants to attract downtown.
Walsh said Friday that he needs more direction from the council on what type of moratorium it wants to enact.
Mayor Susan Feiszli mentioned also putting a moratorium on tattoo parlors during the meeting. There are now three tattoo parlors downtown.
“I’m in the process of reviewing the procedural requirements to establish a moratorium, and I believe the council can elect to enact it in six-month intervals,” Walsh said. He added that he is gathering information on other municipalities’ zoning regulations for adult businesses.
Terry Marshall, owner of Tikki’s Adult Boutique, which operates a store on Groton Avenue in Cortlandville, opened a second location Feb. 8 inside the Beach House Mall on Main Street in Cortland.
The store sells lingerie and nightgowns, as well as adult novelties, sexual devices and videos.
After Tikki’s opened, city code officials warned Marshall that her business could be in violation of city code, prompting her to close the store for a few days.
Adult entertainment businesses are not allowed to operate in general business districts, such as the downtown area, without a special permit from the Common Council. They also cannot be within 1,000 feet of places of worship, public parks, elementary and secondary schools and public libraries.
Walsh looked into whether Tikki’s met the definition of an adult video store or adult bookstore. It would be considered an adult video store or adult bookstore if 40 percent of its “stock-in-trade” was in adult products, according to a city zoning ordinance passed in 2003 that put new restrictions on adult businesses.
Walsh said he was told that the area of the store containing adult paraphernalia comprises less than 15 percent of the square footage of the store. Case law involving New York City businesses states that square footage is used to measure the stock-in-trade of a store with adult products, Walsh said.
Walsh and former director of code enforcement Chuck Glover, who was appointed fire chief last week, made a compromise with Tikki’s owners, agreeing that it could stay open if it changes its sign on the store window from “Tikki’s Adult Boutique” to “Tikki’s Boutique,” put less suggestive lingerie its window displays, and put up a barrier between its section containing adult paraphernalia and the rest of the store.
Spike Marshall, Terry Marshall’s husband and spokesman for the store, said Friday the store has changed its window displays and put up the barrier, and is ordering a new sign.
During the council meeting Tuesday, Walsh said it appears Tikki’s is in compliance with the law, based on the square footage measurement.
“If we interpret lingerie to not be an adult paraphernalia ... then it would appear that they’re in compliance,” Walsh said Friday, adding that some people have questioned whether Tikki’s lingerie items are adult products.
Deputy Police Chief Paul Sandy argued that the percentage of stock-in-trade should be measured by the number of adult products the store sells.
Glover said using this measurement is not practical, because the city cannot determine how much of a certain product a store will sell before it opens.
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